Recommending readalikes can be a tricky process, but as I said in the first post in this series, I enjoy the process of finding similar threads running through even books that appear different on the surface. Today’s pick is a new release by Ghanaian author, Yaa Gyasi, a story about the intersection of faith and science, and the grief of losing a son and brother to the opioid epidemic. Without further ado, if you loved this book, here are more books like Transcendent Kingdom.
Almost American Girl is Robin Ha's graphic memoir detailing her move from South Korea to Huntsville, Alabama. Robin is 14 when she and her mother leave for one of their regular visits to the US. Except, this time it's not Hawaii or any other vacation hotspot -- it's Alabama. Robin's mother has been encouraging her to learn English like she has been doing, but Robin is uninterested, preferring to enjoy her Korean comics and spending time with her friends buying stationery and Korean street food. When they arrive in Huntsville, Robin realizes that her mother is there to visit a man she has been corresponding with. His family welcomes them, but Robin feels out of place since she can neither speak nor understand English. She dreams of returning to Korea when the vacation is over. However, Robin is in for a shocker as her mom announces that she's marrying this man, and she and Robin are staying put in America. Her whole life changes forever, as she struggles to assimilate, while handling the ups and downs in her mother's relationship.
There are more mixed-race people in the world, than ever before and these middle-grade books with biracial protagonists highlight that fact. The characters in these stories benefit from being part of multicultural households. In most of these books, the fact that the character is biracial plays strongly into the story. They highlight how these kids handle more than one culture at home, and how they find the best of both worlds.
Far from Normal follows Maddy, a 17-year-old from Normal, Illinois who moves to Chicago for a summer internship in aunt's sports marketing company. Away from home -- and her parents' low expectations of her -- for the first time, Maddy is ready to prove that she can be excellent at something, even though she has to work hard unlike her genius brother. Things are going fairly well, until she runs into one of the company's clients, 19-year-old soccer star, Gabe.
Catch That Chicken was my first read of the author Atinuke. She is popular for her Anna Hibiscus books, a series of chapter books set in Africa (many readers place the country as Nigeria as Atinuke is Nigerian). In this delightful picture book, young Lami who lives in a large village compound, is known to be the best chicken catcher. She runs quickly, trying to catch any chicken she's asked to, until one day, her adventures lead to a sprained ankle and Lami has to learn new ways of catching chickens.
I enjoy the process of finding similar threads running through even books that appear different on the surface. Today’s pick is a classic by Nigerian author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie that is both a meditation on race and immigration, as well as a love story. If you haven’t read it yet, you should, as you should all of Adichie's other books! Here are 10 more books like Americanah.
Transcendent Kingdom is Yaa Gyasi's long-awaited sophomore novel. Her debut, Homegoing was widely read and loved. In this book, Gifty is a PhD student whose research focuses on desire and restraint and how both factors play into addiction and depression. The story follows Gifty's life from her childhood in Huntesville, Alabama to the present, alternating between several timelines. Her brother, Nana, was a gifted athlete, first playing soccer in his childhood, and then basketball in his teens, until a game injury led to a brush with Oxycontin which eventually spiraled into the opoid addiction that took his life.
I was a bit scared to read Jackson's Grown, because I've read both of her books and they were absorbing, but difficult to read. I was worried about getting my head into a potentially triggering plot, but I survived. At a singing audition, 17-year-old Enchanted Jones catches the eye of superstar musician Korey Fields, who is 28. Korey promises her a future in music and the starstruck teen is quickly swept into an illicit relationship with drugs and abuse. That is until Korey Fields is found dead with Enchanted on the scene and all fingers pointing at her.
Finding chapter books for second graders can be tough, because these kids are often new to reading and we don't want to discourage them with bulky chapter books. Ideally, these kids would be seven-year-olds. The selections for this age (unless you have a faster reader) tend to be heavily illustrated, featuring text in much larger fonts and simple story lines. If you're an adult reader, you could get through these books in under an hour or much less. Series are also a hit for this age group.
In Turning Point, we reunite with the Pirates Cove gang (minus a few) -- mostly Mila, Mo, Sheeda, and Tai. This book focuses on Monique (Mo) and Rasheeda (Sheeda)'s friendship and how it changes over a summer when both girls are drawn into different pursuits. Mo is off at a ballet intensive with Mila, while Sheeda is stuck at church (with her church "friends") feeling like she has no life.
It's My Party and I Don't Want to Go is quite the mouthful, but the quirky title encapsulates this book's nature. Ellie is a young Jewish girl with undiagnosed social anxiety. She gets physically sick -- sweaty, lightheaded, shaky, fainting at times -- at the thought of being the center of attention, and even worse when her worst fear actually happens. Her latest anxiety trigger is the thought of her fast-approaching bat mitzvah.
YA books about sports aren't the most common, but for some reason, I keep running into them -- and I don't even like sports! However, I've found some of my favorite protagonists in these books, as well as many sports I never really thought of teens playing in high school. That's why I decided to make this list. In this list of YA books about sports, you'll meet characters who do everything from rowing to playing hockey. You'll also find a gymnast, several basketball players, a sumo wrestler, soccer players, and many more.
His Only Wife was my return to adult fiction. I always wondered which book would finally do it, and it was this one. Set in Ghana, this debut novel by Peace Adzo Medie follows a young woman Afi Tekple. The story open at Afi’s marriage to Elikem Ganyo, a man from a high standing Ghanaian family — except Elikem is absent during the ceremony, and his brother is standing in for him. The Ganyos are marrying Afi traditionally for their son, because they are displeased with his current relationship with a Liberian woman with whom he has a daughter.
Some backlist middle-grade books don't get as much love as they deserve. Typically, once the pub day frenzy is past, these titles get forgotten, almost like their worth depends on their publication date! None of that around here. For my list, I’ll be focusing on books published at least one full year prior. Pstt, many backlist titles are often less expensive than new releases (which you should definitely still purchase if you can) and readily available at your libraries. Here are 15 older middle-grade titles I'm hoping to read soon.